Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Lagos port city is gradually regaining its lost glory


It is one of the most strategic communities in the country. Apapa, a sprawling upscale Lagos neighbourhood, hosts two of Nigeria’s most significant and busiest sea ports – Apapa Wharf and Tin Can ports. Besides, it is home to many industries and commercial ventures. But all these did not immune Apapa from the rot afflicting many parts of Lagos. Until recently, several parts of Apapa wore a repugnant garb.

The major artery to the area, the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway was in a very bad shape. Many sections of the highway had failed, with potholes dotting several parts. On both sides, trailer and tankers parked indiscriminately, virtually taken over the entire road and leaving a narrow stretch for other vehicles. Businesses quickly sought alternative locations and moved out of the area. Crime soared in Apapa and its environs, as hoodlums mounted shanties in the area. Robbers, rapists and other criminals made the place their abode. And since oil companies and manufacturing concerns also operated in Apapa, articulated vehicles degraded the roads.

Angered by the destruction of the area’s initial master plan, Lagos State governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola and his team moved in last May to bring back Apapa’s old, glorious days. Supported by the federal government, bulldozers were rolled into the area, accompanied by fierce-faced, gun-toting security personnel. Trucks and tankers were cleared off the roads, shanties demolished and criminals routed from their dens. Since then, traffic in Apapa has improved considerably. But many Lagos residents were hardly impressed. They doubted that government would be able to sustain the momentum.

Like the proverbial dog that returned to its vomit, they insisted that Apapa would soon go back to its old, iniquitous ways. The state government has, however, assured Nigerians that never again would Apapa be allowed to degenerate. Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello insisted that the government would ensure the sustenance of the intervention policy in that part of Lagos. Bello recently led some top officials of the state government to inspect the Marine Beach and Ijora Causeway, which the federal government had promised to restore a few months ago.

The team discovered, quite sadly, that many promises made by the federal government were yet to be fulfilled. Indeed, many things remained wrong with the state of the roads in the area. From Sapara Street, the road leading to Apapa Central Business District (CBD) was inundated with petroleum products, causing much damage to the road. The water channels in the area were blocked with plastic materials, preventing a free flow of water. Hills of filth and human excreta stood at specific parts of the road leading to NNS Beecroft, and cows as well as white egrets fed on the wastes.

Several young men, looking rough and tough, idled around. It was learnt that they belonged to the group of hoodlums sacked from Apapa when shanties, where they dwelled, were demolished by the government. But the mobile policemen stationed in the area kept an eagle eye on the men. In spite of the federal government’s inaction, however, the state government said it would continue to address the problems of Apapa even as it unveiled the Apapa regeneration plan recently. Bello said the government would soon turn the land reclaimed from Ijora Causeway to Marine Beach into a landscaped splendour.

Hear him: “We will be landscaping the space we reclaimed in Marine Beach and create a recreation centre for residents of Ijora and Ajegunle. Some of the facilities that will be available at the recreation centre are a basket ball court and a football pitch, among others. Gardens and parks will be created around the area. We have done the design for the project.

The street light from Ijora to Apapa has been designed and the estimate has been made.” There would also be a basket ball court and boxing rings at Ijora Olopa where residents of Oyingbo, Ebute-Meta, Iganmu and Alaka can come and recreate at their leisure, according to the commissioner. At Marine Beach, Bello said the government would build a standard football pitch and create outdoor advert boards at strategic areas which would serve as a revenue source for the state. Special Adviser to the Governor on the Environment, Dr. Taofeek Folami said the state government had also restored the glory to some other neighbourhoods in the area.

He cited the beautified Costain Loop, the Abebe Village and Nigeria Breweries Plc Complex as examples. His words: “The Costain Loop is now an exhilarating sight to behold. But in the actual sense, it used to be a ram market and indeed an eyesore.

The story has changed, and the loop is gradually emerging a tourist centre.” Bello said the governor had set up an inter-ministerial committee to ensure the full implementation of the plan. Ministries and agencies to be involved in the project, according to him, were Environment, Agriculture, Works & Infrastructure and Lagos State Advertising Agency (LASAA), among others. Explaining that the cost might be huge, Bello said the road from Marine Beach to Apapa alone would cost the state government over N6 billion to reconstruct, besides other costs. “By our last calculation, the regeneration project will cost over N12 billion. This is due to a lot of damage that have been done to the environment. For instance, we have to do remediation before we commence road construction. This is as a result of the diesel, petrol and petrochemical products spilt on the roads by those who turned the roads to their workshop.

This has caused major degradation to the environment, thereby making Apapa and its environs almost inhabitable for its residents and unenabling for business.” The state government is certainly not happy with the federal government over what Bello termed its many failed promises on Apapa. Governor Fashola also wondered why the federal government has continued to keep mum over the Apapa regeneration project. Fashola said the project was discussed with the federal government from inception and expressed surprise that the central government had failed to keep its own side of the bargain. “The state government has been the only government involved in the sustainability of Apapa since we completed the removal of the shanties.

So far, the federal government has not contributed their quota. We cannot bear the burden alone because this port is the number one port.  The traffic gridlock along Wharf Road was created by the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority,” the governor lamented. Bello said the state government spent a lot of money to clear the Marine Beach and Ijora Causeway, saying the project cost N100 million to clear all the shanties and remove abandoned vehicles and others from the axis. “We have completely cleared the place, and today, it is very easy for one to drive through Apapa.

Yet, the state is yet to receive the federal government’s response in different areas it pledged to make intervention.” The commissioner regretted that the federal government promised to address the ocean surge persistently ravaging the Alpha Beach, saying the incident has almost wiped out the Okun Alfa community which borders the Atlantic Ocean in the eastern part of the state.

According to him, President Goodluck Jonathan had inspected the place alongside Fashola but noted that the federal government has since kept mum on its plans for the area. The commissioner said no provision was made for the Apapa regeneration plan in the 2012 budget, but expressed hope that a structural appropriation might be made for the state government to achieve its plans for the neighbourhood. Governor Fashola isn’t too pleased with the federal government over its inability to redeem its pledges concerning Lagos. “It is always a problem to work with the federal government,” lamented the governor. “The federal government does not compensate Lagos State Government for all the damages it did to infrastructure in the state.

All the money they are making from the ports, we get nothing from it. Now, I would expect a federal government with conscience to take a decision that since we are running our tankers through your roads, this is what you get every year to repair the roads. Instead, they are carving out our land. But we have started reclamation of our territory with or without them. There ministers were here and agreed on certain things.

I hope they will come through. Regenerating the blighted areas would cost over N12 billion. “But I plan to send a representation to the federal government to come and see the damage they have done to our land, to our assets and to our people in the name of operating oil transportation. All that oil is going underground and it will pollute the underground water.

From this, ultimately, the residents will extract water for use and tomorrow we will be talking of cancer and other related diseases. The people must understand this and this must stop. We will transform this place. I am confident that we will. We have done it at Oshodi. We have also done it in Obalende and succeeded.”

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